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    The hobby of watching and identifying birds in their natural habitat, birdwatching is one of the fastest growing hobbies around! Here's what you need to know before getting started. Read >>
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Birdwatching 101

Looking for a new hobby? Here's what you need to know before getting starting in birdwatching.

Knitting, playing an instrument, building model airplanes—there’s a hobbyhorse for every person out there. Hobbies aren't just for super-creative people with too much time on their hands. They're a great way for anyone at any age to manage stress, build self-confidence, create social connections, and add fun to daily life.

With the hundreds of different hobbies to choose from it can be hard to narrow your options down. But if you love birds, you may be interested in birdwatching. The hobby of watching and identifying birds in their natural habitat, birdwatching is one of the fastest growing hobbies around! Here's what you need to know before getting started.

Ready?

Right now, you may be wondering why you should get into birdwatching, and the reasons are as numerous as the types of birds out there. The unique colors, songs, and personalities of birds fascinate many people. It's an activity that takes you outdoors to enjoy nature, giving you a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and slow down. Some folks just step out their back door while others head to parks or exotic secluded areas to watch for unique bird species.

Birdwatching doesn't require expensive equipment, training, or expertise, and it's a hobby that can be done alone or in the company of other like-minded enthusiasts. Watching and waiting to sight birds is usually a peaceful and slow-paced activity, but ask any seasoned bird-watcher and you’ll learn about the thrill experienced when new or rare species are sighted.

Set?

One of the perks of birdwatching is the short list of required equipment. The most important thing you need is a field guide. This book allows you to identify the birds you see. It contains pictures of birds and maps of where they're found. You only need a guide that's specific to the area of the globe you're exploring. The smaller the guide, the easier it is to carry around.

Look for a book that includes details about each bird's size, wingspan, appearance, behavior, song, nest identification, and flight pattern. It's also helpful if the field guide includes pictures and descriptions of juveniles and the differences between males and females. The more details a guide provides, the easier it is to identify a bird. Some field guides come with space to record your sightings. If not, purchase a small notebook to make notes.

 Another piece of equipment that's helpful but not essential is binoculars. This common tool allows you to see more detail of birds at a distance. Small, inexpensive binoculars work fine for the novice, but as you become more serious about birdwatching, a nice camera, spotting scope, or powerful binoculars would be ideal.

Go!

You've made the decision to try a new hobby and you've acquired the needed equipment. Now you're ready to bird-watch. The first step is to make a plan. One way to start is to pick a bird that lives in your community and start looking until you find it. Or you can just go outdoors, watch for birds, and identify the ones you see.

Some people prefer to bird-watch from the comfort of home. To do this, you can easily attract a variety of birds to your yard by building a birdhouse, hanging a bird feeder, or planting flowers that birds enjoy.

Before heading out, remember that birds are more active during certain times of the year and depending on their migration pattern, some will be around all year, while others are only in town for a season. Early mornings are generally the best time to spot various species. And when you’re ready to graduate from your backyard birding, head into the forests and wetlands for a birding adventure you’ll never forget.